Homeschooling in the city

An estimated 2 million children — about 2.5 percent of school-age kids  — are educated at home. In a look at urban homeschooling in City Journal, Matthew Hennessey provides some history of the movement that I haven’t seen before.

Anne Tozzi teaches her five children in her Yonkers, New York home.

Anne Tozzi teaches her five children in her Yonkers, New York home.

In the mid-1970s, as few as 10,000 children were homeschooled in the United States, mostly in rural areas, he writes. Homeschooling was illegal in 30 states.

Things started to change in 1978, when “the Internal Revenue Service under President Jimmy Carter threatened to revoke the tax-exempt status of Christian day schools that it accused of using religion-based admissions standards to circumvent federal antisegregation laws,” Hennessey writes.

The IRS ultimately caved on its threats, but the evangelicals took a message away from the battle: the federal government—as embodied by the newly established Departmentof Education—was out to get them.

“What galvanized the Christian community was not abortion, school prayer, or the ERA,” Moral Majority founder Paul Weyrich told sociologist William Martin for his book With God on Our Side. “[It] was Jimmy Carter’s intervention against the Christian schools. . . . [S]uddenly it dawned on them that they were not going to be left alone to teach their children as they pleased.”

Backed by the Religious Right, Home School Legal Defense Association lawyers fought a state-by-state battle in the 1980s to remove legal barriers to homeschooling. “By 1993, the practice was legal in all 50 states,” writes Hennessey.

Homeschooling is becoming more secular and urban. Online courseware has made it much easier for parents to educate their children at home.  It’s also easy to network with other homeschooling parents and students.

Anne and Erik Tozzi teach their five children in their Yonkers home. He’s a specialist in medieval history; she’s an art historian and rare-book specialist.

Schoolwork for the Tozzi children, who range in age from two to 14, can mean a day spent at their book-strewn dining-room table discussing Chaucer or a visit to the Museum of Natural History or the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan.

. . . Last year, the older Tozzi kids worked with students from around the country to write a radio script, which they produced for an all-online course. They took online classes in Latin, religion, and math with teachers based in other cities. They used Skype for live class lectures and to communicate with other students for their projects. . . .  The younger children used Skype for a weekly “Story Time” with a teacher.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 28 percent of homeschoolers are urban, 34 percent suburban and 31 percent live in rural areas.

 

Healthy lunches = more veg in the trash


Before/after photos of lunch trays show vegetables often end up in the trash.

Federal school lunch rules require that children take a fruit or vegetable. Kids aren’t eating healthier, according to a new study. reports the Washington Post. Most of the healthy food ends up in the trash.

“The basic question we wanted to explore was: does requiring a child to select a fruit or vegetable actually correspond with consumption. The answer was clearly no,” Sarah Amin, the lead author of the study, said in a statement.

This salad, featuring raw green pepper and croutons, is supposed to contain chicken.

This salad, featuring raw green pepper and croutons, is supposed to contain chicken. Photo: Hans Pennink, AP

Children took 29 percent more fruit and vegetables after the rule went into effect, the study found. But their consumption of fruits and vegetables declined by 13 percent.

Food waste went up. In many cases, the researchers wrote, “children did not even taste the [fruits and vegetables] they chose at lunch.”

Last year, a Harvard study using a different methodology found students ate the same amount of fruit, but 16.2 percent more vegetables. However, students threw out 40 percent of fruit on their trays and 60 to 75 percent of vegetables.

Core support? It depends on the poll

ednext_XVI_1_poll_fig01-smallTwo new polls provide two different views of public opinion on The Common Core, testing, charters and more, reports The Atlantic.

Forty-nine percent of adults back Core standards in the Education Next poll, while only 24 percent are pro-Core and a majority are anti-Core in the PDK/Gallup poll.

Support for letting parents opt their children out of standardized tests was higher on the PDK/Gallup poll than on the Ed Next poll. Among parents, 47 percent favored opt-out rights in the PDK/Gallup poll, only 32 percent in Ed Next.

Sixty-four percent of adults support charters, according to PDK/Gallup, but only 47 percent, according to Ed Next.

Many paths lead upward

 From Fordham’s EduWatch 2016: 6 Themes For Education

Job skills can be first step to college

Students in the Jewish Homes’s geriatric career development program take summer classes taught by registered nurses at Hostos Community College.
New York City students in the Jewish Homes’s geriatric career development program take summer classes at Hostos Community College. Photo: Meredith Kolodner

Training to care for the elderly is helping low-income New York City students qualify for jobs — and go to college, reports Meredith Kolodner in the Washington Monthly. Jewish Homes, which needs aides and nurses, offers help finishing high school and applying to college and paid internships.

Mercedez Vargas was struggling to complete her high school diploma at a last-chance night school, when she learned about the Jewish Homes’ program. “As I started interacting with the elderly, I actually found it was something I would like,” said Vargas, who is 20. “Now I actually love it.”

Participants come after school for four hours twice a week to get academic, job and college prep, as well as a free meal. Juniors go on college visits and rising seniors take a 10-week summer course aimed at passing the state nursing assistant exam.

While their high schools have an average graduation rate of 61 percent, nearly 100 percent of students in the program graduate.

The Jewish Home hires program graduates as nursing assistants for $15 an hour. Registered nurses, who need a college degree, average more than $36 an hour. Eighty percent of participants since 2009 have earned a degree or are pursuing one, writes Koldner. But it’s a challenge.

These students often come from high schools where they got good grades for simply showing up and turning in their work on time, said program director Toni Sexton.

. . . “We’ve coined the phrase ‘gentle dream crushing and gentle dream redirection,’ because our students going pre-med is a waste of their financial aid,” said Sexton. “Not because they’re not bright — we have lots of bright, very intelligent young people who are incredibly underprepared, and at this point it’s nearly impossible for them catch up.”

Vargas works evenings and weekends as a home health care aide, while taking full-time community college courses to prepare for the nursing assistant exam. Once she passes that hurdle, her mentors are encourging her to go for a nursing degree.

Job training, BA — or a third way

Our higher-ed system, which puts general courses at the front end, doesn’t work for many students, writes Mary Alice McCarthy, a senior policy analyst at New America Foundation, in Rethinking the Bachelor’s Degree.

She has two nephews who weren’t academically motivated.

Allen completed a political science degree in six expensive years. He’s unemployed and living with his parents.

Jeffrey apprenticed at a restaurant while taking community college classes and works as a chef. But the pay is low and he needs a bachelor’s degree to move up to a more lucrative restaurant management job. His credits and experience don’t count toward that four-year degree.

In Washington state, Evergreen State College offers an “upside-down bachelor’s degree, with the technical education coming first, followed by two years of broader, general education,” she writes.

Other community colleges in Washington offer a bachelor’s of applied science, designed to build on a two-year technical degree, she writes. For example, the BAS in manufacturing operations at Clover Park Technical College adds business and management skills to a two-year machinery repair program.

McCarthy worries about “the notion that everyone must earn a bachelor’s degree to be successful.” Some schools are offering a bachelor’s of applied science in dental hygiene, while many dental hygienists qualify with a one-year certificate.

Nearly two-thirds of job postings for executive assistants require a bachelor’s degree, even though only a fifth of people in the job now are college graduates, reports Burning Glass Technologies.

High school welcomes ‘Scolars’ 

North High in Worcester, Massachusetts welcomed back its “scolars” on the eve of the first day of school.

“For a school that was routinely on the front pages earlier this year for fights, arrests, bomb threats, assaults, and an email from the principal to the entire staff accusing a teacher of causing possible race relation problems, this is probably not the way North wanted to start the new school year,” reports GoLocal Worcester.

Laptops in, textbooks out

Students will get laptops rather than textbooks at Houston schools, reports the Houston Chronicle.  All high school students in the district will receive laptops.

All math and social studies materials will be digital this year. Printed science books were scrapped last year. English books will be next. The new model is “electronic text with features like hyperlinks, videos and interactive maps,” reports the Chronicle.

Houston is warehousing science, social studies and math books and switching to digital content.

Houston is warehousing science, social studies and math books and switching to digital content.

 Superintendent Terry Grier hopes to raise stagnant test scores by using savings from not buying books to “fund the technology and online resources that can be updated more easily,” reports the Chronicle.

“It’s called a digital transformation,” Grier said. “And every teacher is to make that transformation.”

“There are so many things wrong with doing this,” writes Darren, a math teacher who blogs at Right on the Left Coast.Books make it easier to read, find things, study and highlight.  Screens are hard on the eyes and “use a color of light that is known to screw up your circadian rhythms. That means that it’s harder to fall and stay asleep if you study near bedtime.”

There are other problems.

Is the infrastructure strong enough to support the laptops?  (How often does the power go out?  How often does the internet go out?  How often does the wireless go out?  Can the district handle all those kids logged on at once?) Do I have stable desks, and carpeting?

How am I, the teacher, supposed to handle a kid who forgot to charge his laptop, and it goes out during the quiz?

How will the district/schools handle those kids who just cannot be trusted on computers?  (Yes, they exist, and sometimes they find a way to access porn sites and send hundreds of pictures to the school secretary’s printer. Just saying.)

“Two years ago our prior superintendent pushed a mandate to give every single kid an iPad,” writes Ellen K, who blogs at The Sum of All Things, in a comment. Results:

-Less focus on writing-both content and the skill.

-Fewer research skills as students resort to plagiarism on an exponential scale.

-Inability to read — especially scary when you consider that young kids are being taught to read on devices over printed material. Five year olds don’t know the phrase “eye strain” but they do know when something hurts. . . .

-The inability of teachers to remove or even control distractions created by devices has resulted in classroom chaos. Fights and events are formulated on social media and it is literally us against them.

Other than that, it’s been great.

 

Treat pro athletes like teachers

Key and Peele’s TeachingCenter skit inspired dreams of teachers treated  like pro athletes, but we need to treat pro athletes more like teachers, writes Matt Barnum on The 74 Million.

“After all, when you don’t count our poor kids, we have one of the best education systems in the world,” he writes.

By contrast, the average professional sports team, which wins no more than it loses, could learn from our public schools.

For example, we should stop paying athletes for performance. “Basketball star Lebron James can earn more than $20 million in a single season, while a teammate earns less than $1 million for doing the same job.”

It is well known that merit pay is an idea that “never works and never dies” according to education historian Diane Ravitch. After all it assumes that athletes only play for financial incentives rather than the love of the game. . . . Many pop psychologists have also pointed out that incentive pay will lead to a reduction in collaboration and intrinsic motivation. Instead, athletes should be compensated solely based on experience and whether they have a master’s degree in the sport that they play.

To prevent cheating, “we need to immediately stop evaluating teams and players based on narrow quantitative metrics, like wins and losses. A team is more than a score.”

Finally, it’s time to “stop the war on veteran athletes,” writes Barnum. “Our teams deserve experienced, qualified players — not young kids straight out of college or even high school who are supposedly faster and more athletic.”

Top colleges for value, mobility

University of California at Riverside tops the Washington Monthly’college rankings, which give top honors to schools that enroll and graduate “students of modest means” while “charging them a reasonable price,” write the editors.

The rankings also give credit for research — are these schools “creating the new technologies and ideas that will drive economic growth and advance human knowledge?” — and whether they encourage students to join the military or the Peace Corps or perform community service.

You’ll see it doesn’t intersect very much with U.S. News‘ college rankings.

Two years ago, President Obama pledged to rate every college and university in America by “who’s offering the best value,” note the Monthly‘s editors.

The higher ed lobby mobilized to kill the ratings plan. In June, it was canceled.

The Monthly also ranks the best bang-for-the-buck colleges.